Alluring Luang Prabang: A Bucket List Delight

“You’ve visited tons of places, so what’s your favorite place in the world?” We get this question a lot, and it’s a tough one to answer.

In our experience, if you look hard enough every place has interesting things to see and do. If someone really holds our feet to the fire, we usually waffle and come up with a handful of cities. But no matter how we hedge our answer, Luang Prabang, Laos is always on the list, and in fact, is always near the top.

Its patchwork of gold-plated Buddhist temples, charming French-colonial homes, traditional Lao wooden houses, fragrant frangipani, meandering monks, and delightful riverside restaurants make it one of the most alluring cities in Southeast Asia.

Prior to traveling to Laos we’d spent a couple of weeks immersed in Bangkok’s hustle and bustle. and while we enjoyed our time there, our visit to LP was a pleasant decompression that we’ll never forget.

So over the next few weeks we’ll be revisiting one of our global favorites, and hopefully convincing you to put this marvelous town on your bucket list.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

51 thoughts

  1. We also loved Luang Prabang. We’d planned to stay a week but loved it so much we stayed an extra 5 days which meant less time in Chiang Mai, but it was worth it. It’s such a beautiful town.

    1. Alison, we spent a week there and certainly could have stayed longer. We’ve heard good things about Vientiane so when we’re back in that part of the world we’ll visit both places. Our trip to LP was like our first trip to Bali – magical. ~James

  2. I really enjoyed my stay in Luang Prabang. It’s one of those places which actually put my mind in peace, one of the main reasons why I started traveling at the first place. It was scorching hot when I went, but it also happened to be off peak tourist season which made the town even more captivating.

    1. Bama, I’ve never heard of anyone who was disappointed in LP. The pace there is such a nice change from so many other places in SE Asia. I love the feel of sitting at one of the quiet, shady restaurants overlooking the Mekong. It really is a peaceful place. ~James

  3. Done! Added it to my list! What an amazing place this seems to be. I have a friend who just visited, and her photos took my breath away. I simply must make it there. Can’t wait to see your posts!

    1. Liz I promise that you’d love LP. As you’ll see from our posts it has a wonderful combination of so many interesting things. The nights there are fabulous; not in a noisy, hustle and bustle way but in a calm, peaceful, laid back way. A quiet drink and a meal at one of the riverside restaurants is the best. Given its location and visas, etc, it isn’t the easiest place to visit, but it’s unique in the world and worth every bit of effort. If you get to that part of the world, do not miss it. ~James

  4. I get the same question about the towns I’ve visited in NH. Just once I wish someone would ask me “Which town do you wish you had skipped?” SO I’ll ask you… “What was your least favorite place to visit?”

    1. As usual, good question Laura. Interestingly, Terri and I talked about it and nothing immediately jumped to mind. There have been a few places that turned out to be not so much bad as disappointing. Somebody out there will probably hammer me for this, but we weren’t crazy about Jakarta. It had lots of cool stuff to see and do, but it’s very, very crowded, noisy and polluted. But having said that, we’re glad we visited. ~James

    1. Given your travel history Martha, I’m surprised you haven’t been already. As you’ll see from our posts, vibrant is a perfect word. It’s a small place, but has a surprising number of incredible Buddhist Wats. Very, very cool place. ~James

  5. I’m so happy to see many people wanting to visit my home country! Luang prabang is also my favorite province in Laos! It’s a perfect place to slow down and enjoy nature, Buddhism architecture and friendly people 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment Lili and for dropping by the blog. We absolutely loved LP and will definitely return. We weren’t able to visit Vientiane, but plan to visit both places when we get back to that part of the world. We’d heard great things about LP, but it turned out to be even better than we expected. ~James

  6. This is one of my favorite destinations and I would love to spend more time there. We have a friend who stays 4-5 weeks at a time, rents a room and really soaks up the culture. Thanks for taking me back through you photos.

    1. We spent a week there Lynne, and certainly could have stayed longer. LP would definitely be a good base to settle in and explore the area. As I said to someone else, our visit there was like our first trip to Bali – magical – truly magical. ~James

  7. When were you there? (Great photos by the way.) I fell in love with LP when I first went in 2002, and it was still mostly magical in 2004, but I was disappointed when I went back in early 2011 and wrote this: It seemed to have become just one more stop on the SEA tourist circuit. I suppose if you haven’t already been it’s still well worth seeing but I have serious doubts about going back myself.

    1. Kathy, in these days of low-cost airlines, and a considerably more mobile population, I fear that unique destinations are destined to become more popular and overcrowded. We experienced a bit of your feeling the second time we visited Bali. Everyone wants to discover the next “undiscovered” destination. But ultimately, I think the quality of a visit really comes down to how the city handles the additional people. Developing nations like Laos can ill afford to turn tourist dollars away, and from what I saw, officials seem to be handling the growth well. Having said all that, when we are in the area again I would definitely go back.

    1. Tess, we haven’t been to a more pleasant place in many years. LP has it all going for it: great architecture, scenic surroundings, wonderful food, friendly people, and a laid-back atmosphere. It’s pure magic. ~Jamees

  8. My Stanley went there on his own, and Laos in general is the place he would like to visit again (along with Vietnam.) Looking forward to your photos and details. I seem to remember Stanley raving about the food??

    1. Curt, a couple of laid-back Oregonians like you and Peggy would love LP. The Buddhist temples and French colonial architecture make a wonderful contrast. The food is great and the small town has an incredibly calm ambience. Unusual for a popular tourist spot. ~James

      1. Sounds lovely to me James. Peggy and I have been discussing next year’s big adventure… Africa? the Far East? the South Pacific? Half the fun is in the dreaming, right? –Curt

  9. Laos as a whole is such a relief after the bedlam of Thailand, and Luang Prabang is the standout whilst there (I guess UNESCO knew what they were doing when they slapped it with a World Heritage listing).

    Will always have fond memories of it, as it was part of my first ever trip abroad! 🙂

    1. Wow Chris! Visiting LP on your first trip abroad must have set the bar pretty high for subsequent trips. It took us years to finally get there, and we’re glad to have finally made it. The calm there is wonderful. We especially liked going out at night to wander the streets and have a drink and meal by the river. ~James

    1. Thanks Carol. In addition to being an amazing place to visit, it’s also very photogenic. The mini-monks wandering around town make for colorful people-watching. ~James

  10. Looking forward to traveling the globe with you! We have favorite places, too — and sometimes they weren’t even on the original radar! Love your photos — especially the roof. We were fascinated with rooflines and adornments throughout China.

    1. I agree Rusha, the temples in China are beautiful, and I especially like the glazed terra cotta tile critters. Like you, some of our best stops were unplanned. When we were in Croatia, we traveled to Bosnia after I looked at the map and saw that the border was only 75 miles away. Also, we stopped in Sri Lanka because it was on the route from Jordan to Bangkok, and we wanted to break up a long plane ride. ~James

  11. The hardest question for any seasoned traveler is to pick a favorite. Each place holds special memories and unique experiences. I find it equally difficult to answer the inevitable “How was your trip” question. To summarize all that traveling offers and the endless ways it affects you does a disservice to journey as a whole. There is no short answer for the magic that is travel. ~Sheena

    1. Perfectly and succinctly put Sheena. No city nor travel experience is perfect, and as a traveler the most important thing is to keep it in perspective. There are places in India (eg Varanasi) that will try even the hardiest of travelers, and yet, there’s no place on earth like it and I wouldn’t have missed it. But, as you say, it takes experience to realize that in the majority of cases it’s the traveler not the destination that makes the trip good or bad. ~James

  12. The colors and vibrant energy of your lovely photos convinced me to add Laos to my travel bucket list!
    Hope you are both doing well and enjoying your Kentucky home and the summer!
    Sincere greetings from NYC,

    1. Thanks so much Lia. With a Buddhist temple around every corner, colorfully clad monks wandering the town, and lovely old French Colonial architecture, LP is a very photogenic place indeed. It isn’t the easiest place to visit, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort. I hope you can make it. ~James

      1. Wow! Even your description here in this comment is enough to make me book a ticket! You are a great travel writer!

  13. Love the photos. It brings back memories of our time there in 2013. Two days was not long enough–I hope we are able to return. But till then, we will revisit via your photos.

    1. Thanks Shelley. We spent one week in LP and could easily have spent another. It’s such a welcome change to the craziness of the large cities in SE Asia. ~James

    1. Dawn, we don’t put places on our “special” list lightly, but Luang Prabang was a no-brainer for the list. It has so many excellent qualities that it really should be on every serious travelers’ list. ~James

    1. Other than the long flight, visiting SE Asia is easy-peasy from the UK Marie, and LP is a short hop from Bangkok; a very different, but very cool destination as well. James

  14. Thank you for the idea, guys — I’m already obsessed with Southeast Asia/Indochina, so LP should fit in future plans nicely! I’m always on the lookout for beautiful temples and meandering monks. 🙂

    1. That’s great Steph. It’s a very special place, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The small town is such a pleasant change from the crowds and hustle-bustle in most other SEA cities. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. We loved the food in LP, and all the charming riverside restaurants made for a few fun nights out. Your question about other places that I would rate highly got me to thinking. We visited the Central Highlands of Mexico for a few weeks, and after this trip, we put Guanajuato on the list. This post might give you an idea for another small, relaxed, and interesting place to visit.

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